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Bluegrass Legend, Curly Seckler, Dies At 98

Date December 29, 2017 18:26

On Wednesday, December 27th, 2017, and only two days after his 98th birthday, bluegrass legend Curly Seckler passed on.

Curly was born John Ray Sechler and into a musical family in China Grove, North Carolina. His parents, Carrie and Calvin Seckler, were themselves musicians. Carrie was an organist and his father Calvin played old-time fiddle, harmonica, and autoharp. Together, they were the first music teachers that this legend ever had.

Starting out in the music scene, he accompanied brothers in a group called the Yodelling Rangers. His instrument at the time was the tenor banjo. He also had a remarkable singing voice that he used to provide vocal harmonies.

A major break appeared for him with an invitation from bluegrass maestro, Charlie Monroe, to join him and his band. He moved around a bit, but eventually, returned to Nashville Grass in 1979.

The life and times

Success did not come easy for Curly. Losing his father when he was only 9 was a hard blow. He had to struggle to earn money and pay his way through sixth grade. Much of his early inspiration was provided by Happy Trexler, a local musician from whom he learned how to play the banjo.

The Yodelling Rangers provided Curly the opportunity to put his skills to use. He was able to buy himself a banjo from his earnings and occupy a position on the band with his brothers.

Tex Johan posted this photo of the legend on Facebook along with a touching tribute.

In 1949, Curly was on the move. This time, he became associated with the Foggy Mountain Boys, playing with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. He played the mandolin and also sang tenor on the band. Some of his most iconic records were produced during his time with the new band.

About 130 recordings were made during this period and of these, Curly takes credit for writing a few. In spite of his absence from the group in 1962, during which time Curly was occupied with other vocations besides music, the contributions he made with the band to bluegrass music remain visible.

Dale M Prince also shares this undated throwback picture. It shows Curly Seckler with fellow artists, Tex Isley and Paul Prince.

With the passing of former bandmate, Lester Flatt, in 1979, Curly staged a return to the Foggy Mountain Band and staged a comeback with surviving member, Earl Scruggs. The band continued to play up until 1994 when Curly retired.

In his later years, this bluegrass aficionado still made public appearances and performances at bluegrass festivals. As recently as 2011, he made an appearance on The Marty Stewart Show. He is fondly referred to as “the greatest bluegrass tenor singer in history”.

In this photo, the bluegrass singer strums his guitar backstage at the Ernest Tubb Records Midnight jamboree, November 2009.

Author Penny Parsons, who worked on a book project with Curly, shared these words about him:

He always had a sense of humor about things. He went through a lot of adversity in his life, and the way he coped with that was with his sense of humor.

At 84, he released one of his last records, Down in Caroline. On 24th September, 2011, Curly Seckler was inducted into the Bill Monroe Hall Of Fame.

Until his death, Curly Seckler was one of the longest surviving musicians from the early bluegrass era. His music will continue to live on for generations to come.

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